Children who are not enabled to play freely may suffer limitations in their physical, social and cognitive development. There is a danger that widespread play deprivation may lead to future generations of adults lacking essential social and personal skills. Recent German research identifies opportunities for children aged between 5 and 9 to begin experiencing independence as essential for healthy child development, and distinguishes between autonomous and heteronomous forms of childhood. The amount of time that children in this age group play outside without adult supervision was investigated and found to correlate with the quality of children's residential environments. The quality of the 'action space' available to children correlates with the economic and cultural resources of their families, so that children from socially and materially deprived homes have significantly less opportunity to develop their autonomy, through the 'latent curriculum' of free play, than children from more affluent homes: 'street childhood' has become a sign of wealth rather than poverty. Conventional playgrounds with limited, fixed installations lack scope for imaginative or creative play and fail to meet the requirements of quality play space for children. In contrast, action spaces designed with local children and which allow for creative play with natural materials are 50% cheaper to build than standard playgrounds. The need is asserted for children's policy to be embedded in housing, public space, traffic and urban design decisions, in order for the right to play to be effectively implemented. These developments are contrasted with the prevailing culture and controversies on child safety and freedom in the USA, and compared to current trends and debates in the UK on the changing nature of childhood, restricted play opportunities and child safety. The impact of UK law is considered as a key factor contributing to fear of allowing children to experience risk in play. Further research is proposed to investigate the potential for urban design to enable healthier city childhoods, the relevance of common law as distinct from civil law systems in impairing exercise of the right to play, and the impact of cultural patterns on children's opportunities to develop autonomy.
Residential Environment and Types of Childhood, Humanities and Social Sciences.
Vol. 3, No. 5,
2015, pp. 159-168.
Bailey, S. (2008): What and who it is that we don't trust? Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
Ball, D. (2002): Playgrounds - risks, benefits and choices, HSE, 2002.
Ball, D., Ball-King, L., (2011): Public Safety and Risk Assessment, Earthscan Routledge.
Ball, D., Gill, T., Spiegal, B. (2012) Managing Risk in Play Provision, Play England for the Play Safety Forum.
Blinkert, B. (1993): Aktionsräume von Kindern in der Stadt, Pfaffenweiler.
Blinkert, B., Höfflin, P., Schmider, A.,Spiegel, J. (2014): Raum für Kinderspiel!, Berlin.
Blinkert, B. (2005): Quality of the City for Children: Chaos and Order, in: Children, Youth and Environments 14(2), 99-112.
Bradshaw, J., Hoelscher, P., Richardson, D. (2007): An Index of Child Well-being in the European Union, Social Indicators Research (2007) 80: 133 – 177.
Brussoni, M., Olsen, L., Pike, I., Sleet, D. (2012): Risky Play and Children's Safety: Balancing Priorities for Optimal Child Development, International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 3134-3148.
Campbell, D. (2011): Children growing weaker as computers replace outdoor activity, Guardian 21.5.11.
Child Poverty Action Group (2009): Child wellbeing and child poverty: Where the UK stands in the European table.
Conservative Party Childhood Review (2008): More Ball Games.
Dillner, L., (2015): Should I let my child take more risks? Health Dilemmas. Observer, Guardian 14.6.15
Frost, J.L. (2006): The Dissolution of Children's Outdoor Play: Causes and Consequences, University of Texas.
Furedi, F. (2008): Paranoid Parenting.
Gill, T. (2007): No Fear: Growing up in a risk averse society. London: Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.
Gill, T. (2011): The end of zero risk in childhood? Guardian 3.7.11.
Gill, T. (2014): Play Return: A Review of the wider impact of play initiatives, Play England.
Gleave, J. (2008): Risk and play: a literature review, Playday.
Gleave, J. (2010): Community play: a literature review, Playday.
Graf, C. Dordel S. Koch B. Predel H-G: Bewegungsmangel und Übergewicht bei Kindern und Jugendlichen. In: DEUTSCHE ZEITSCHRIFT FÜR SPORTMEDIZIN, Jahrgang 57, Nr. 9 (2006).
Hall, N., Day, L. (2009): Evaluation of Children's Play Programme, Report to Big Lottery Fund.
Health and Safety Executive, (2012): Children's Play and Leisure: Promoting a Balanced Approach.
Hüttenmoser, M. Degen-Zimmermann D. (1997): Lebensräume für Kinder. Empirische Untersuchungen zur Bedeutung des Wohnumfeldes für den Alltag und die Entwicklung von Kindern. Könitz.
Karsten, L. (2005): It all used to be better? Different generations on continuity and change in urban children's daily use of space, Children's Geographies, 3:3, 275-290, DOI: 10.1080/14733280500352912.
Lester, S., Russell, W. (2010): Children’s right to play: An examination of the importance of play in the lives of children worldwide, Bernard Leer Foundation.
Living Streets (2009): No ball games here (or shopping, laying or talking to the neighbours.) How UK streets have become no-go areas for our communities. Living Streets.
Louv, R. (2008): Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder.
Madge, N., Barker, J. (2007): Risk and Childhood, The Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures & Commerce, Risk Commission.
Moss, S. (2012): Natural Childhood, National Trust.
Nairn, A., Ormrod, J. (2007): Watching, Wanting and Wellbeing: Exploring the Links, National Consumer Council.
Natural England, (2009): Childhood and Nature: a survey on changing relationships with nature across generations.
Olk, Th; Hübenthal, M. (2011): Zweckfreie Kindheit. in: Wittmann, S.; Rauschenbach, Th.; Leu, H.R.: Kinder in Deutschland. Eine Bilanz empirischer Studien, Weinheim.
Play England (2011): A world without play: A literature review on the effects of a lack of play on children’s lives.
Play England (2009): Playable Space Quality Assessment Tool, INSPIRE Consultancy.
Renz-Polster, H., Hüther G. (2013): Wie Kinder heute wachsen. Weinheim/Basel.
Rogers, S., Pelletier, C., Clark, A. (2009): Play and Outcomes for Children and Young People: Literature review to inform the national evaluation of Play Pathfinders and Play Builders, Department of Children, Schools and Families, DCSF-RBX-09-06.
Shackell, A., Butler, N., Doyle, P., Ball, D. (2008): Design for Play: A guide to creating successful play spaces, Play England
Shaw, B., Watson, B., Frauendienst, B., Redecker, A., Jones, T. with Hillman, M. (2013): Children’s independent mobility: a comparative study in England and Germany (1971‐2010), London: Policy Studies Institute.
Thomas, G., Thompson, G. (2004): A Child’s Place: Why environment matters to children, Green Alliance/DEMOS.
Tremblay et al. (2015): Position Statement on Active Outdoor Play, Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2015, 12, 6475-6505; doi:10.3390/ijerph120606475
UN Committee on the Rights of the Child General comment No. 17 (2013) (art. 31), 17 April 2013, CRC/C/GC/17.
UN General Assembly, Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 1577.
UNICEF (2007): Child poverty in perspective: An overview of child well-being in rich countries, Innocenti Report Card 7, UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, Florence.
UNICEF (2013): Child Well-Being in Rich Countries: A Comparative Overview, Innocenti Report Card 11, UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, Florence.
Valentine, G., McKendrick, J. (1997): Children’s Outdoor Play: Exploring Parental Concerns About Children’s Safety and the Changing Nature of Childhood, Geoforum Vol, 28, No 2, 219- 235 1997.
Young (2010): Common Sense Common Safety, The Young Report, Cabinet Office, H.M.Government, 2010.
Zeiher, H. (1990): Organisation des Lebensraums bei Großstadtkindern - Einheitlichkeit oder Verinselung? In: L. Herlyn U. Bertel (Hg.): Lebenslauf und Raumerfahrung. Opladen, S. 35–57.
Zinnecker, J. (1990): Vom Straßenkind zum verhäuslichten Kind, in I.Behnken (Hg.),Stadtgesellschaft und Kindheit im Prozeß der Zivilisation, Opladen.